King Ahab called out from the rocks,
“Do you think that a fire-tailed fox
Can scorch the fields of Jezebel,
And starve the stock, and dry the well,
And mock the Baals, and scorn Jezreel,
And not be crushed beneath the wheel
Of Ahab’s chariot? Beware
The day you leave your anxious lair:
The fire and drought that you’ve begun
Will swallow you before it’s done.”
Elijah stood across the vale
From Ahab’s band and answered, “Hail,
Bold servant of the queen! I see
The chain is loosed and you are free
To chase a fox with infantry.
I’m honored that the fox is me.
High trust from Jezebel to let
You have a hundred men to net
A flaming fox and not be burned!
I am surprised she hasn’t learned
The weakness of a godless king!
Or, Ahab, is that golden thing
Around your neck still fastened to
The finger of the woman who
Now feeds four hundred fifty men
Who prophesy for Baal? And when
Will you now cease to trouble all
This royal woman what you will,
She has more pow’r, more cultic skill,
More force in unseen things than you
Have ever dreamed, or any Jew
Has known for centuries. Not I,
Elijah, nor my queen make dry
The land and trouble Israel.
It’s you who dry the drinking well
And ruin crops and kill the herds
And stop the rains with empty words.”
One face among the retinue
Of Ahab winced. It was the true
And faithful servant of the court,
Old Obadiah — not the sort
Who served the Baals but loved the Lord,
And spared his prophets from the sword
Of Jezebel when she ordained
That they should die. And now he feigned
Composure as he listened to
The empty babblings of a blue
Blood monarch fall like reverent foes
Before Elijah’s face.
The words of royal blood, O king,”
Elijah called, “Or do you cling
To empty words as to your gods?
Tell me, Ahab, what are the odds
That Jezebel has greater force
With unseen things, and is the source
Of greater pow’r than God, if I
Am he who keeps rain from the sky?
If I have troubled Israel,
If by my prayer the royal well
Is dry, and dead the royal herds,
Then have I spoken empty words?
Or have you and your queen despised
The God of all the earth, and prized
Your pagan idols over all
His word? And are you not in thrall
To blind and helpless deities?
Else why has not the queen called these
To open clouds and lift the cares
That you have charged to my weak prayers?
If Baal be God, then it is plain:
Let Jezebel release the rain.”
Old Obadiah smiled inside,
And Ahab, helpless and defied,
Stood silent at the voice of God.
“Do you remember Aaron’s rod?”
Elijah cried. “Or do you mock
The stream that flowed out from the rock?
Or don’t you know that everywhere
The soil of faith is kept with care
In all the hearts of faithful men,
The rod of Aaron grows again?
Hear this, O king, three years ago
I saw Almighty God bestow
More power in a little boy
Than all your prophets can enjoy.
Go now, Ahab, and tell your queen,
Tomorrow morning God will clean
This wicked land with holy fire.
Let Baal and all his seers conspire,
The Lord will do what he ordain,
And when I pray, there shall be rain.”
Elijah spent the night in prayer.
And in the early morning air
He walked Mount Carmel’s height,
And battled there against the might
Of unseen wickedness without,
And even worse within, his doubt.
“What if the fire should fail to fall?
What if the rain heed not my call?
What if the other altar burns?
What if the Lord my favor spurns?”
Elijah knew that in the end
Faith was a gift, and God would send
It when he willed, by some strange means
Designed to silence kings and queens.
All Israel was there that day,
And others came from far away
As Zarephath. Elijah cried,
“How long will you fail to decide
Between your God and foreign cults?
Why is it that this choice results
In limping back and forth between
The Law of God and Baal’s queen?
Let there be now a test to see
Who is the greatest deity:
The God who answers here with flame
Is God alone and his the fame.”
And so the bull for Baal was slain,
His prophets prayed, but all in vain:
They danced and cried and cut their arms,
They fell and shrieked and shook their charms.
Elijah goaded them with scorn,
“Perhaps you need to use a horn.
He might be on a holiday,
Or maybe he just has to stay
In bed because he’s sick. I bet
He hears but all his kindling’s wet.”
The midday passed, and as they roared,
Elijah built an altar to the Lord.
Twelve stones, the wood in order laid,
A trench around the altar made,
Twelve barrels full of water spilled.
The kindling’s wet, the trench is filled.
And suddenly the air was still,
And Jezebel had shown her skill:
The bloody prophets lay in shame
Around the fire that never came.
Elijah felt ten thousand eyes
Fixed on his face, and as he tries
To pray, the demon doubts assail:
“What if it doesn’t come? I fail,
And with me falls the name of God,
And never will there grow the rod
Of Aaron in the hearts of men
Again. O, Sovereign Lord, what then
Shall I recall or think or see,
That you might give this faith to me?
By what strange means will you supply?”
And as he opened up his eye,
A little boy walked up the path,
A six-year-old from Zarephath,
And smiled at him without a word,
As though a message could be heard.
Behind him in the distance stood
A woman with a widow’s hood,
And in her hand a jar of meal.
Elijah looked and felt the seal
Of God upon his prayer: “O Lord,
Your name and glory have been poured
Like water over all these stones.
The blood is spilt that now atones
For all my doubt and Israel’s blame.
Come now, and vindicate your name,
Come now, and answer us with flame.”
And with these words the fire came.
“The Lord Almighty, he is God!
The Lord Almighty, he is God!”
Ten thousand people turned that day
To God, and watched Elijah slay
The empty messengers of Baal,
Where used to run the Kishon trail
And creek before the drought. And so
The fire of God consumed his foe.
Elijah turned to Ahab now,
“King Ahab, I have kept my vow:
Did I not promise holy fire
To burn the fruit of your desire,
And cleanse this wicked land entire,
With faith and prayer and flood and fire?
Make haste, the purge is not complete,
Take shelter with your queen and eat.
God does not start his purge in vain,
I hear the sound of rushing rain.”
So may the flame of candle two
Ignite a fire in me and you,
To burn the Ba’als and the doubt.
And then to heal the scorch and drought
And take away the final stain,
Let there be, Lord, a rushing rain.